A good video game brings people together. Whether it’s discussing the story and the way the game was crafted, or more conventionally playing it together, it’s hard to imagine a world without some titles excelling at couch co-op or online play.
Without the means to connect with other players around us, gaming would truly live up to the anti-social stereotypes bestowed upon it. Although the gaming industry has it’s fair share of single player games released each year, developers like Nintendo, and Blizzard, have chosen to keep multiplayer a focus of their developmental process, instead of overshadowing it with an extensive single player campaign.
Whether the games on the list are co-operative, or competitive, each one manages to present some of the best multiplayer expereinces we’ve had this year.
Nominee – World of Warcraft: Legion
To be fair, World of Warcraft’s whole genre is built around the idea of playing with others. There isn’t any true single player found within an MMORPG, but that still shouldn’t take away from the fact that Blizzard is returning the focus to the multiplayer aspect to World of Warcraft, and it’s been paying off for Legion.
Although cross server groups still exist for Normal and Heroic 5 man dungeons, or Battlegrounds, features like finding a proper raid or Mythic dungeon requires players to actively put the group together themselves. Removing the Garrisons (which proved to be a miss-step for the game’s last expansion), and introducing Class Halls, you theoretically have a place to hang out with like minded players. Even if players still hold most of their conversations on trade chat, the sense of community is still nice.
Perhaps, in the end, for Legion it isn’t the implemented multiplayer features that give it a worthy title, it’s the community that Blizzard has helped create surround the game itself.
Nominee – Titanfall 2
We don’t deserve Titanfall 2. It’s triple-A quality, an endlessly exciting evolution of the mainstream FPS, and an improvement of its predecessor in every conceivable way. Although the matchmaking could still use a bit of refinement, the gameplay in Titanfall 2 is a string of incredible moments of personal achievement.
FPS purists may cry afoul of absurd movement abilities, like phasing in and out of reality, and giant robots complicating the game. But its mechanics mesh perfectly, and are still skill based.
That said, imagine ejecting from a Titan, shooting down enemies while falling through the sky, and landing on another Titan to rip out its battery. Then picture wall-running away and summoning another Titan with boosted health, just so you can paint the enemy Titans with lock-ons and shoot them all simultaneously. If that play sounds one-in-a-million, the fact that you can pull that off day-one should tell you just how constant (and truly fun) the action is.
Nominee – Doom
Like its name suggests, Doom brings us back to the basics of online multiplayer. It is pure run and gun. The game is big, loud, and everything blows up perfectly, including the people. Every kill has a satisfying amount of gore and bone crushing sounds. Pair that with the speed of each match, and the game is refreshingly fast-paced, giving each player an intense feeling throughout.
Things are switched up when a demon appears and everyone on the opposing side hits the panic button. With a variety of weapons to make your own and achievements that are always being worked towards after every battle, Doom’s multiplayer aims to make everyone feel good. Unless of course they are blown up 100 times and never get a kill in. At that point, better luck next time.
Winner – Overwatch
Overwatch does the unthinkable: It brings people from Team Fortress 2, mainstream FPS, and MOBA communities together into a team-based game and makes it work. The art direction is at least partially responsible for Overwatch’s success, but the game also has to work well underneath that shiny veneer. And mechanically, it’s a masterpiece.
It’s easy to jump in with a hero that is visually appealing, understand their abilities, and begin to learn hero match-ups. The game is simple to play but has endless depth due to a combination of simplistic parts.
The matchmaking in Overwatch is fast and makes for consistently even games. Leveling, besides cosmetics, doesn’t affect what you have access to. But it happens regularly enough to have the new skins, sprays, and voice lines for heroes feel rewarding. The developers manage to communicate with players and release detailed patch notes and announcements regularly.
It’s always difficult to balance accessibility and satisfying depth. Too accessible, and you get Nintendo party-games that rubberband and have too much random chance. Too deep, and you get fighting games with such a high knowledge and execution barrier that most people wouldn’t even try the game. Overwatch is that rare title that can be fun for everyone, being some of the “most fun” fun to come out of mainstream multiplayer in a while, and devilishly complex, satisfying even the hardcore among us.